You are on page 1of 13

Journal of Urban Affairs

ISSN: 0735-2166 (Print) 1467-9906 (Online) Journal homepage:

Gender, urban space, and the right to everyday life

Yasminah Beebeejaun

To cite this article: Yasminah Beebeejaun (2017) Gender, urban space, and the right to everyday
life, Journal of Urban Affairs, 39:3, 323-334, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2016.1255526

To link to this article:

2015 The Author(s). Published by Taylor &


Published online: 23 Dec 2016.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 3084

View related articles

View Crossmark data

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at

Download by: [] Date: 15 August 2017, At: 05:47

2017, VOL. 39, NO. 3, 323334

Gender, urban space, and the right to everyday life

Yasminah Beebeejaun
Bartlett School of Planning

Gender remains a neglected focus for theory and practice in shaping cities.
Given womens continuing economic and social marginalization and the
prevalence of violence against women, how can this be the case? Despite
several decades of feminist scholarship, dominant perspectives within the
the right to the city literature pay little attention to how rights are
gendered. In contrast, feminist and queer scholarship concerned with
everyday life and the multiple spatial tactics of marginalized city dwellers
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

reveal a more complex urban arena in which rights are negotiated or

practiced. This article suggests that a fuller recognition of the contested
publics that coexist within the contemporary city and the gendered media-
tion of everyday experiences could enable planners and policy makers to
undertake more inclusive forms of intervention in urban space.

The feminist critique of urban theory and planning that developed in the 1970s demonstrated how
urban planners have created gendered environments that are predominantly suited to the needs of
men and the heteronormative family. As a direct response to this, explorations have been made of
what a nonsexist city might look like and how cities might differ if they were designed equally for
men and women (see, for example, Hayden, 1980). These remain important insights, but many
questions raised remain underexplored.1 Which accounts might help us to understand the ways in
which women are able to access the city and the role of planning in supporting these processes? How
can a focus upon the everyday aid us in understanding the gendered mediation of space? This article
suggests that a greater engagement with everyday spatial practices provides critical insights into how
claims to urban space and the exercise of rights are inherently gendered.
Despite the development of feminist planning scholarship, the integration of gendered perspec-
tives within professional practice remains limited. One of the key barriers to more nuanced
narratives is the continuing binary categorization of men and women. For Petra Doan this tyranny
of gender (2010, p. 635) demonstrates how being gendered is not an innate, essentialized identity.
Doans work engages not only with how spaces are highly gendered but also how the gender binary
is spatialized (see Doan, 2010, 2015). The recognition of intersectionality reveals the complexity of
gendered experiences in tension with race, ethnicity, class, age, or sexuality (see Crenshaw, 1991;
Frisch, 2015). We know that experiences of being gendered vary across places, contexts, and political
regimes. Gender is continuously being remade at different scales, through national legislation, and
changing life circumstances, thereby presenting different layers of complexity for coherent analysis.
The city is gendered through multiple actions and experiences of its inhabitants.
Shifting patterns of gender relations also reflect the success of numerous political contestations
and social movements to claim greater rights. Despite these evident advances, women continue to
endure an unequal position in society: firstly, there is womens economic inequality in the labor
market, along with the continuing burden of unpaid labor disproportionately falling on women
(see Fraser, 2014; McDowell, 1983; Sayer, 2005); secondly there is womens underrepresentation

CONTACT Yasminah Beebeejaun Bartlett School of Planning, Central House, 14 Upper Woburn
Place, London, WC1H 0NN, United Kingdom.
Published with license by Taylor & Francis. Yasminah Beebeejaun
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The moral rights of the
named author(s) have been asserted.

across a range of political and leadership roles (see Durose, Combs, Eason, Gains, & Richardson,
2012; Trondal, Murdoch, & Geys, 2015); and thirdly, there is the persistence of widespread violence
against women (see, for example, Sweet and Ortiz Escalante, 2010, 2014; Whitzman, Andrew, &
Viswanath, 2014).
Though within planning there has been a participatory turn that emphasizes the importance of
engaging with citizens, community influence within statutory planning processes remains limited.
Planning can be understood as the set of institutional processes that mediates development
decisions and is interrelated with policy approaches that articulate visions for future development
patterns. Mechanisms exist to take into account gender and other groups, but there are dangers
that gender mainstreaming has been used as a bureaucratic tool distanced from the rights
agenda that emerged in the 1970s (see Snchez de Madariaga & Roberts, 2013). Though the
language of rights and equality was more common during the 1980s and early 1990s, the
gendered dimensions of planning seem to have fallen down the agenda more recently (see
Irschik & Kail, 2013). We can see a shift within policy away from politicized discussion about
womens rights toward the language of creating spaces that value diversity and inclusivity within
the UK context. Yet there is little reflection on how planning policy contributes to supporting
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

inclusivity. In emphasizing plannings potential to promote rights I draw upon the work of Clara
Irazbel and Claudia Huerta (2016), who emphasize plannings critical pedagogic and ethical role
to contribute to progressive struggles for greater rights to the city and socio-spatial justice for
minoritized people (p. 725).
There is an increasing mismatch between the ways in which everyday rights are framed within
planning and the direct experiences of marginalized urban dwellers. To take one example, the
London Plan, which is the citys principal strategic planning document, contains language that is
deliberately vague, discussing inclusivity, access, and safety in largely abstract terms while at the
same time referring to how the city may take gender and other forms of difference into account.
This is not an unrepresentative example of planning language that asserts a viewpoint from which
spaces become positioned as an independent container within which we are enabled to live with
difference. Yet spaces are not static sites but animated by physical characteristics, history,
location, time of day or week, season, or the presence of other people (see Amin, 2013).
Inclusivity, access, and safety are dynamically produced through space and negotiated in tandem
with other people.
The urban scale itself has become increasingly important in attempts to promote progressive
collective rights in the face of neoliberalism. A variety of both theoretical and activist-oriented
perspectives, most notably the neo-Lefebvrian right to the city, have come to the fore as a means of
reclaiming urban spaces. However, dominant scholarship within this field is underpinned by a
patriarchal gender perspective (see Fenster [2005] and Vaiou [2014] for a critique). Turning our
attention to how everyday life is negotiated can provide productive insights into the multiplicity of
spatial practices that illuminate gendered experiences (see de Certeau, 1984).
Two interrelated arguments emerge: firstly, gender remains a pivotal concern for a critically
engaged planning discourse that does not rely solely on the language of diversity and difference
and, secondly, although significant contributions have been made to our understanding of the
role and significance of gender in urban space, there remain important questions that have only
been partially addressed. Though feminist debates have catalyzed new ways of thinking about
gender and gender relations, the limitations of plannings understanding of the complexity of
gender militate against an extended conversation about the gendered and dynamic nature of
space that might enable stronger linkages to feminist, antiracist, or queer scholarship. Given that
feminism is not a homogenous critique or set of beliefs, what challenges are raised for our
understanding of urban space and how might they connect to conceptions of rights as distinc-
tively urban? Not explicitly feminist in outlook or thinking, the right to the city debate none-
theless provides a productive tension for considering how the discourse of urban rights has
neglected their gendered nature.

Right(s) to the city?

Symptomatic of the neglect of gender within much urban theory is the influential recent debate over
the reprise of neo-Lebefvrian discourses focused upon the right to the city. This has been a focus for
contemporary concern with increasingly divided, restricted, and securitized urban spaces. The
Lefebvrian perspective on the right to the city has become a rallying cry for attempts to counter
the neoliberal impetus of urban policy making and the exclusionary dynamics of increasing socio-
spatial segregation. We have witnessed activist movements such as Occupy claiming public space to
highlight unequal access to the city. The emancipatory possibilities of reterritorialization away from
the nation-state to that of the urban arena have also become a critical scale for political action.
Nonetheless, we must exercise caution in downplaying national and international policy frameworks
and coalitions as important sites of activism (see Nicholls & Vermeullen [2012] for a discussion in
the context of immigration).
The writings of Lefebvre continue to influence predominantly Anglo American theorists to
extend our understanding of how space as a social and historical set of processes is understood,
constructed, lived, and perceived (Merrifield, 2006; see Shields, 1999; Soja, 1996). The political
dimensions to Lefebvres work have influenced the right to the city, in part, as a response to the
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

oppressive effects of neoliberalism (see Brenner & Theodore, 2002). Lefebvre cannot be described
as a feminist, yet his theoretical understandings of the social dynamics of space have clear
implications for gender relations (Shields, 1999). Lefebvres concern with the alienating impact
of the modern city emphasized an increasing disconnection between urban inhabitants and their
abilities to participate in the production of spaces. The right to the city offers a series of
perspectives regarding the redemptive political potential of the urban experience. Nonetheless,
contemporary urban theory that draws upon Lefebvres work rarely develops a feminist or
gendered understanding of space (notable exceptions are Fenster, 2005; McLeod, 1996; Vaiou &
Lykogianni, 2006).
One of the principal Lefebvrian-inspired political theorists, Mark Purcell (2002) considers that the
right to the city has transformative potential to reformulate power away from the state into the
hands of citizens. Purcell (2014) does not ignore the gendered dimensions of city life, including
state-led gender mainstreaming initiatives as materially beneficial practices, if not part of the right to
the city movement. But within Lefebvres desire for holistic understandings of life there is a move to
apprehend human life as complex whole and avoid reducing our understanding of experience to
small fractions of life, such as class status, gender, race, income, consumer habits, marital status, and
so on (Purcell, 2014, p. 145). Such perspectives reflect the way in which many writers in articulating
the right the city subsume gender within the urban citizenry rather than theorizing gender as a
structuring dimension of peoples identities.
Don Mitchells (2003) influential work highlights both the problems and potential of public space
as the site of emancipatory claim-making. Struggles over space reveal the implicit hierarchies, the
ordering of space, the rules, and the exclusions in order to maintain particular visions of the orderly
city. The concept of the public itself has relied upon the exclusion of different groups over time.
Inclusion, for groups including women, is often gained through concerted social struggle, demand-
ing the right to be seen, to be heard and to directly influence state and society (Mitchell, 2003,
p. 132). Such struggles have been necessary because rights are not experienced in the abstract but
have a spatial and material dimension. Rights are complex and multiscalar, mutually reinforcing
neither inclusion nor exclusion. The realization of legal rights or protections is not experienced
innately as if there were a direct correlation between legislation and everyday life. Rather, everyday
life is a complex negotiation where the concepts and practices of citizenship, exclusions, and
prejudice are experienced and coconstituted with other urban dwellers. Our rights are embodied
and form the sites where assumptions are made about our subject positions. The valuing of some
social groups over others is maintained through our interactions and access to differentiated spaces
of the city (see Staeheli, Ehrkamp, Leitner, & Nagel, 2012).

The city is not necessarily a site where gender, race, or sexed bodies can enjoy the anonymity of
the flneur (see Rendell, 2002) but can also be the focus of (un)wanted attention. Within the
articulations of everyday urban life, a shifting terrain of spatialization emerges where continuous
forms of unspoken negotiation with other urban dwellers are worked through. Urban spaces are
actively constituted through the spatial practices of different groups. Yet developing an under-
standing of the multiple users who may either be in conflict or create gendered patterns of exclusion
is rarely the focus of planning attention, much less policy intervention.

The right to everyday life

For Lefebvre, there were contradictory notions of both the alienating and emancipatory possibilities
of everyday life (see Lefebvre, 1991). However, Lefebvres usage of the term everyday life encom-
passes more than our daily routines and extends to concerns with the effects of banal and mean-
ingless life (Shields, 1999, p. 69) but still positions everyday life as the site of authentic experience,
of self, of the body and of engagement with others (Shields, 1999, p. 77). The potential of everyday
life has also been explored by numerous urban theorists drawing upon the work of de Certeau. But
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

there is a tension between conceptualizations of everyday day for proponents of Lefebvre and de
Certeau (Goonewardena, 2008). For some urbanists, de Certeau overromanticizes the liberating
potential of individual action and simplifies the operation of power as visible primarily through top-
down planning visions (see Keith, 2003).
For de Certeau, conceptualizations of space and his focus upon everyday activities of the city as a
site of ordinary political action, embodied activity, and emotion provide alternative insights that he
contrasts to an interpretation of modernist planning as a static overview from above. In giving
attention to walking, for example, we can observe both individual and collective modes of asserting
rights within urban space. Though these are not the collective and political acts of the right to the
city, de Certeau proposes that embodied everyday practices such as walking recover meaning and
belonging in the world. He distinguishes those walking within the city as the ordinary practi-
tioners, to be contrasted with the planner, urbanist, and cartographer (de Certeau, 1984, p. 93).
Rather than a fictive planning vision of the city, walking through the city becomes a series of acts full
of meaning that destabilize the unified vision of place that emerges through planning visions. For de
Certeau, walking, wandering or window shopping (p. 97) is part of a multitude of activities with
meanings not obvious to the outside gaze. Walking is not analyzed in terms of efficient transport
choices guided by the maps rationality but as a pleasurable or even political act:
Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read, accumulated
times that can be unfolded but like stories held in reserve, remaining in an enigmatic state, symbolizations
encysted in the pain or pleasure of the body. I feel good here. The well-being under unexpressed in the
language it appears in like a fleeting glimmer is a spatial practice. (de Certeau, 1984, p. 108)

Strategies and tactics are an important distinction in the work of de Certeau. Institutional power is
distinguished from that temporarily wielded by city dwellers. He situates strategies within those
institutions able to claim a power of knowledge (1984, p. 36) over a space and able to represent
spaces in particular ways that suit their purposes. These privilege certain types of spatial relationships
and demand a coherent mapping of space, with planning identified by de Certeau as an example of
strategy. In contrast, tactics are the activities de Certeau describes as weak because their actions are
piecemeal and momentary in contrast to strategy (de Certeau, 1984). For de Certeau, tactics are
embedded within temporalities. Planning visions attempt to fix spaces and rationalize city spaces and
are differentiated from the multiple lived experiences of the city. Instead of a vision of the city as a
coherent knowable space, the walker is able to temporarily, at least, take over the spaces she or he
moves through and imbue them with their own meanings, bringing past memories and present
emotions with them. Rather than operating within fixed or static space, the walker dynamically
inhabits it, shaping its qualities. For the moment it is his space filled with meaning or emotional

attachment he ascribes to it, and through repetitive use of space an embodied sense of belonging
develops. For de Certeau these tactics are ways of claiming the city, resisting the planning gaze,
moving down to the streets where the constant movement and interplay between urban dwellers
creates meaning. Here is the sense of the city as an immense social experience (de Certeau, 1984,
p. 103).
This concern with urban life as a site of micropolitics represents a critical part of de Certeaus
articulation of everyday life. A focus upon movementprimarily walkingprovides an alternate
more fluid sense of urban space. This sense of everyday life demands a fuller interpretation of
womens spatial and temporal experiences of the city. Vaiou and Lykogianni (2006) argue that
though the neighborhood is a critical site for understanding womens identities, it is sometimes
overprivileged in analyses, leading to a neglect of the multiple spaces women occupy within the city.
They argue that a fuller analysis of everyday life is central to illuminating multiple spatial practices
that span womens roles as workers, carers, and people enjoying leisure activities. Together these
numerous spaces are where our rights are denied or removed, claimed, or asserted. The lack of
attention to the everyday neglects how womens grounded experiences directly influence their
use and perception of the urban environment (Vaiou, 1992, p. 248) and can be understood as
different to mens everyday life. To this end, public issues need to be made out of the many
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

practices considered too trivial or too private for urban analysis (Vaiou, 1992, p. 259). If everyday
life holds redemptive potential, then gendered everyday experiences require closer scrutiny in order
to develop a richer insight into urban rights.
Everyday life can become understood as the mediator of rights underpinning the usage of
urban space to its fullest extent. An assertion of urban rights is collectively negotiated through
the users of the space who actively inhabit space in the course of their daily lives (Purcell,
2014, p. 148, emphasis in original). Considering an active inhabitation of space is precisely the
concern of feminist geographer Tovi Fenster (2005), who questions the lack of recognition within
the right to the city of how patriarchal power relations are the most affecting elements in
abusing womens right to the city in different ways to those of men (p. 219). Her qualitative
study of London and Jerusalem explores how womens rights become restricted within both
public and private space, thereby limiting feelings of belonging. Fenster (2005) turns to the
everyday as a means of alerting us to how urban spaces becomes used and claimed by different
groups as part of the construction of belonging (p. 223). These gendered practices restricted
womens ability to express their rights when they felt excluded from spaces at certain time
periods by men. In contrast, she also finds that for mothers, routinized practices of moving
through spaces as part of their caring duties within daily life, increased knowledge of these spaces
acted to affirm their sense of belonging in the city.
The feminist writer Elizabeth Wilson (1991) has illuminated how claims to space in the early
industrial city have been a process of transgression and negotiation where the right to equality has to
become enacted as series of tactics in tension with others coexisting within space. There have been
immense challenges for women and other groups seeking a place and public right to be within cities.
A historical examination of sidewalks (pavements) reveals how they provide a space of micropolitics.
Daily acts on public sidewalks legitimize those who warrant basic respect, and, more fundamentally,
those who comprise the public body and have a right to the city (Loukaitou-Sideris & Ehrenfeucht,
2009, p. 86). Drawing upon a range of examples, Louikatou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht (2009) demon-
strate how hierarchies are subverted or challenged within the sidewalk. Here, the example of
suffragettes shows how they recast sidewalks as political spaces and a means of reaching male
audiences for their campaign. The scope for spatial tactics to challenge societal hierarchies is
observable through understanding these acts as intersections where group-based rights overlap
with individual acts of resistance. They provide more than a space for replication of existing
inequalities but a site of resistance. The sidewalk becomes a more complex and potentially over-
looked set of spaces revealed to be where hierarchies are both upheld and challenged (Loukaitou-
Sideris & Ehrenfeucht, 2009, p. 86).

Recognizing the importance of enabling diverse groups to claim city spaces places responsibilities
upon planners to trace the complexities of everyday experiences and map the dynamic qualities of
peopled space (see Vaiou, 1992). The concept of space claiming emerges where the elements within
particular spaces convey familiarity and security for certain religious or ethnic groups. A study in
Brooklyn, for example, found that for Muslim women certain spaces were considered more hospi-
table if there was a mix of ethnic groups and families and places where they would see other women
wearing the headscarf (Johnson & Miles, 2014). The perceived gendered and ethnic patterning of
space complicates how rights or belonging are mediated in tension with other users of the city.

Toward a feminist reengagement with the practical realization of urban rights

It is clear that the everyday is an important but undertheorized space outside feminist scholarship.
Here the multiple temporalities of space are revealed as contested sites for identity and rights. It is
within the everyday that a complex set of spaces, feelings of belonging, and rights to the city can
emerge or be challenged. Interactions within space can be seen to facilitate or hinder rights and shift
planners perspectives. Here planners can learn from feminist projects designed to engage womens
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

experiences in using space to consider alternative possibilities One project led by the Womens
Design Service in Bristol, for example, in the southwest of England, worked with women who were
fearful of moving around their neighborhood due to the urban motorway (freeway) that bisected the
area along with fear of men and young people in the park (see Womens Design Service, 2004).
Though physical barriers existed, it was fear of potential unwanted interactions that limited these
womens access to urban space. On one occasion when the women participants were involved in an
audit, some of these young people asked the group what they were doing and a discussion ensued.
The young people expressed surprise that the women were scared of them. Later on some of the
women reported to the project worker that not only had they started to walk through this space
more but that these young people would now greet them when they walked past, thereby increasing
their feelings of belonging. Although this was a temporary change, the encounter revealed something
about how fear can be productively challenged and the potential for dialogue about space between
different users can coconstitute productive changes.
Though this Bristol example represented an unexpected positive encounter, it illustrates how a
process of active engagement, using walking as a collaborative and political strategy, was pivotal in a
small way to mediate a reconfiguration of emotion and fear within one locality. The work of Betsy
Sweet and Sara Ortiz Escalante (2010) in Mexico, Spain, and the United States develops practices of
community mapping where women consider how spaces are tied to urban emotions identifying
different qualities of space including feelings of safety or fear (see Sweet, 2016, p. 121). These highly
localized experiences can influence feelings of belonging or fear within daily lives. Using walking
methodologies not only helps planners understand womens everyday experiences but brings women
together to safely map community assets or areas of concern as a way of integrating everyday life
with rights (see Sweet & Ortiz Escalante, 2014).
Fear of violence is a particular concern to women, minorities, and LGBTQ communities. Recent
work in remote sensing on crime in London has revealed innovative ways to understand the
temporal and spatial dimensions of fear. Traditional crime surveys treat space in static ways, but
fear of crime is not constantly experienced over large spaces but in specific locations and concen-
trated during specific times of the day or week (see Solymosi, Bowers, & Fujiyama, 2015). The
authors developed a mobile phone app where fear of crime was reported within four different time
periods, including morning and evening commutes, daytime, and nighttime. Findings show nuanced
fear of crime maps and were able to point to some urban interventions, in one case moving a bus
stop away from a pub whose patrons subjected those going home from a popular LGBTQ bar in
north London to homophobic abuse (Solymosi, 2015). Though these do not tackle unequal rights
directly, such projects demonstrate the temporal dimensions and the possibility of challenging
discrimination through more intelligent data collection and interpretation initiatives.

These challenges are not fully within the power of planning to solve. However, planners as
mediators can play a critical role within the urban agenda emphasizing the spatial dimensions of
rights. In the related field of transport, a recent project by the British Transport Police in London
provides an example of the value of engaging with a feminist perspective in investigating and
challenging harassment on the citys public transportation network. Project Guardian was estab-
lished in London between the police force and Transport for London, following the annual
Transport for London (2014) Safety and Security Survey findings that 15% of women had been
sexually harassed when using public transport in London. The vast majority surveyed did not report
it because they did not think it would be taken seriously. Project Guardian (n.d.) was established to
both increase reporting of offenses and highlight the important right that women have to use public
transportation free from harassment. The project is advised by the feminist organizations, The
Everyday Sexism Project, End Violence against Women Coalition, and Hollaback London, with a
clear focus on empowerment of women and police monitoring of unwanted sexual behavior.
Project Guardian demonstrates the necessity of new approaches through its incorporation of
womens experiences along with advisors from feminist organizations, trained police officers, and
station staff and a commitment to prosecution to enforce rights when they are potentially breached.
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

Affirming the existence of harassment as a structural issue facilitated through aspects of the
transportation network promotes an agenda whereby measures are taken to assert womens right
to be in public space. Travelling, in this context, is reframed as a politicized practice connected with
gendered conceptions of urban rights.
A second planning consideration, and one that is more related to traditional forms of planning, is
the varying physiological needs of women. In the UK, the only full-time nongovernmental organiza-
tion working specifically on feminist planning, the London-based Womens Design Service, was
established to provide a feminist response to the lack of attention to gendered difference in
architecture and planning. The organization had a range of important inputs into gender difference
in planning working around housing, community facilities, and public toilets. Work focused on
campaigning for material changes and also increasing the participation of women within planning
debates. A former director of the Womens Design Service interviewed in 2015 emphasized how the
political dimensions of creating seemingly basic services are often forgotten as they move into
mainstream policy:
We campaigned to get spaces for buggies [strollers] on buses. We campaigned to get nappy [diaper] changing
facilities in public toilets. Before that women had to change their babies on the floor in the toilets.

Here the physical facilities that women as primary care givers needed in order to be in the city were
framed as political fights to change urban space to accommodate women, who have often had
primarily responsible for childcare.
Access to public toilets is a gendered consideration. In early industrial cities, womens toilets have
been the subject of intense contestation with men organizing to prohibit them (see Flanagan, 2014).2
Access to toilets outside the home is important to women, particularly because women need to
urinate more frequently (see Mueller et al., 2005). Many women menstruate and need regular access
to toilet facilities. Thus, sufficient public and well-maintained toilets provide opportunities for
women to spend greater amounts of time walking or moving within the city. Quasipublic spaces
such as department stores and malls provide toilets and other women-friendly amenities, but these
are more accessible to wealthier socioeconomic groups. Clara Greed (2008) notes that toilets are
primarily designed by men but that they do not necessarily understand gendered toilet needs. In
addition, men have many more toilet facilities, including usage of the street. Yet research shows that
there is a huge decline in the number of public toilets. Although reliable data are hard to find, a 10%
decline was reported in London between 2000 and 2004, and the local state no longer has a statutory
duty to provide public toilets (see Knight, 2015).
A third consideration draws upon LGBTQ planning and the importance of recognizing queer
spaces within the urban fabric of the city. The contributions of LGBTQ communities are often

marginalized and there is limited public recognition of queer spaces. However, queer spaces are
important sites to also build campaigns for community rights. Doan and Higgins (2011) highlight
the specific threats that gentrification has when queer spaces and neighborhoods are displaced. One
of these potential impacts is a collective forgetting of these important LGBTQ spaces within the city
fabric. They argue that historic preservation policies can be deployed, with one initiative being to
mark the location of gay landmarks (Doan & Higgins, 2011, p. 16). Honoring and recognizing the
different groups that constitute urban space are important in retelling the city through multiple
narratives and reaffirming rights.
In a similar vein, we can ask how cities reflect the contribution of women to their creation.
Though this article has focused upon the importance of everyday tactics, moments of claiming space
offer important insights. Street protests such as Slutwalk or Take back the night have asserted the
temporal dimensions of womens right to be in public space. Women challenging the norms of
public space are powerful reminders of how the choreography of the city can restrict freedom of
movement within cities. These acts of disruption can be nurtured within city spaces through the
support of public officials and planners. City leadership can support cultural and political initiatives
that promote the gendered rights of urban dwellers.
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

A feminist critique of the right to the city demonstrates that though great gains have been made
in gender equality, sexual discrimination persists within everyday life. Moving toward a greater
analysis of the multitude of gendered spatial tactics provides opportunities to practically engage with
the struggle for rights through an analysis of varying spatial tactics. A more dynamic mapping of
spaces and the understanding that spaces cannot be equally inclusive at all times might facilitate the
creation of more diverse spaces that suit different urban dwellers needs. However, refocusing upon
everyday tactics sheds light on how planning practices might learn to consider space through the
prism of everyday life. Through the everyday spheres of life, the gendered and patriarchal nature of
cities is more readily revealed and the agency of city dwellers operates to challenge it.
New modes of thinking signaled within the work of philosopher Luce Irigaray raise further
questions. Both the right to the city and practices of everyday life reveal tensions arising from static
views of city space. Irigaray raises questions regarding not only gender difference but also ideas of
objectivity and rationality. Her work explores the concept of being different but equal (1985). For
Irigaray, Eurocentric culture and philosophy is based on one form of objectivity, and gender is an
essentialist distinction that favors the male. Women are primarily understood in a binary relation-
ship to men; their difference is a lack in contrast to the completeness of men. The question of
equality between genders is an impossibility for her as she rejects the concept of sameness and
equality suggesting that such categories rely on sexual difference and thus women are always
rendered in a subordinate position, as if equality with men were possible when they are, in fact,
different (see Irigaray, 1985).
The architectural theorist Elizabeth Grosz (2013), drawing upon Irigaray, explains that [s]exual
difference is not only a concept of interest to women, to feminists, to activists involved in womens
struggles: rather Irigarays claim is strongerthat sexual difference is the most significant philoso-
phical concept, the most significant thought, issue, idea of our age (p. 176). Current conceptions of
difference presuppose binary categorizations where gender and other forms of difference must be
placed in opposition or complementary relationship, one to the other. Thus, in producing urban
space, gendered spaces or needs are seen to be special accommodation rather than a recognition of
the limited conceptualization of difference (Vaiou, 2014). A right to everyday life emphasizes how
theories that subsume gendered experiences within an attempt to articulate universal rights under-
estimate the complexities of difference.

Everyday lived spaces are neglected as political sites, but a closer examination reveals their impor-
tance to building belonging and rights. In these often overlooked spaces we can recognize processes

of negotiation, challenge, or appropriation that mediate everyday spatial practices and where gender
relations are discursively created. Debates surrounding belonging within the city have sought to
reinvigorate and reclaim urban life as a source for political inclusion and action in very different
ways, pointing toward an inhabitation and activation of belonging through various forms of move-
ment within space.
The right to the city discourse offers a range of perspectives on reclaiming the city as a site of
public political action for urban dwellers. Yet it is through attention to the centrality of everyday
actions to engender belonging within the city that rights are undermined through unequal
experiences of the city in tension with others (Fenster, 2005). These issues are complex and
multifaceted, but planning has a critical contribution to make to support women in being able to
access the city. Through developing frameworks that draw more directly upon womens experi-
ences and spatial tactics, we can develop more fine-grained understandings and therefore ways to
support gendered and grounded notions of everyday rights. Learning from these city dwellers we
can better understand how seemingly mundane activities and spaces support a sense of
Engaging with the negotiation of rights and gender in planning cannot provide fixed statements
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

or checklists of what should be done. Implementation of such policies may become disconnected
from the fundamental political questions that created an imperative for action. A gendered engage-
ment with rights discourses emphasizes that much more caution is needed regarding the redemptive
possibility of the right to the city as currently theorized. There are a myriad of encounters within the
city that can empower and exclude. Spatial practices and an attention to the right for everyday life
allude to a potential conversation about how we perceive dwelling within the city as a political act.
Are there ways in which claims over space or inclusive spaces can be forged through more dynamic
representations of space? Grosz (1994, 2013), along with other feminists, develops Irigarays con-
cerns with the lived body (Davis, 1981), contending that we must start to recover perspectives
engaging with bodies as distinctly different and beyond the binaries of gender, reason and irration-
ality, with the potential to reevaluate how spaces emerge (Moore Milroy, 2000).
The challenges raised by feminist scholars from the 1970s onwards remain salient. Women still
earn less on average, are more likely to do most of the domestic chores, and take greater respon-
sibility for childcare. Public transportation, walking, and accessibility still disproportionally impact
women. A right to everyday life is built up from ordinary practices and experiences of life. An
examination of seemingly mundane practices poses challenges for planners. Instead of the agora, the
public square, or other civic locations more usually associated with the right to the city, the everyday
and the unmapped gain importance. These quotidian spaces, such as pedestrian walkways and
underpasses, public restrooms, and bus stops are often overlooked within planning but exist as
sites of everyday life constituted by the people constantly moving through them. A greater range of
urban spaces is worthy of attention. Such studies may point toward other ways of analyzing space
that give greater attention to embodied spatial practices.
The continuing neglect of gendered and embodied rights to everyday life reveals the limits of the
right to the city as conventionally understood. If we consider multiple rights to the city and
recognize the contested publics that coexist within the city and their spatial tactics, there may be
more productive ways to incorporate divergent experiences within planning practices. A reengage-
ment within the multiple uses of space within a framework that is attentive to difference can provide
potential to sustain a fuller sense of gendered rights to everyday life.

1. The recent diversification of scholarship on gender and space reflects the significant shift within feminism
during the 1990s and early 2000s away from questions of redistribution and state intervention toward socio-
cultural questions framed around identity (see Fraser, 2014). Equally significant is the critique of second-wave
feminist thinking led by African American and minority scholars challenging the Whiteness of the feminist

movement and its lack of engagement with the intersections of race, class, and gender, including the distinctive
histories of African American women (see Anthias & Yuval Davis, 1993; Davis, 1981; Hill Collins, 2000; hooks,
2. Though there is a growing body of work dealing with sanitation in the Global South that emphasizes patriarchal
relations as complicating womens experiences. Women risk both the threat of sexual violence in using public
or private toilets or open space yet at the same time feel that it is immodest to defecate in the open, thereby
constrained by social norms of modesty (see Desai, McFarlane, & Graham, 2014, p. 108). In the Western
context there has been limited engagement with these themes. A notable exception is the long-standing work of
planning academic Clara Greed (2002), who has engaged with both the theoretical and policy dimensions of
toilet provision in urban space. Architectural historians such as Maureen Flanagan (2014) have revealed the
histories of public toilets and the bathroom in cities such as London, Dublin, and Chicago. Flanagan (2014)
reminds us that men saw women as unruly interlopers in the early industrial city.

A comment that there was nothing more to say about women and planning provided the motivation to develop
the ideas within the article. I am extremely grateful to the editorial team and the anonymous reviewers for their
constructive criticism and insightful comments that demonstrated the best of the peer-review process. I want to
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

note my appreciation for the supportive environment within the Bartlett School of Planning, particularly our
departmental chair, Professor Nick Gallent. The challenging discussions and helpful suggestions from Kiera
Chapman, Angela Connelly, and Matthew Gandy were much appreciated in developing this article.

About the author

Yasminah Beebeejaun is a senior lecturer in urban politics and planning at the Bartlett School of Planning, UCL. Her
research and teaching interests cover gender, race, environmental justice, and participatory dimensions to urban
planning. Her recent edited book collection The Participatory City was published in April 2016 (Jovis).

Amin, A. (2013). Animated space. Retrieved from
Anthias, F., & Yuval-Davis, Y. (1993). Racialized boundaries: Race, nation, gender, colour and class and the anti-racist
struggle. Abingdon, Oxon, England: Routledge.
Brenner, N., & Theodore, N. (2002). Cities and the geographies of actually existing neoliberalism. Antipode, 34,
Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color.
Stanford Law Review, 43, 12411299.
Davis, A. (1981). Women, race and class. New York, NY: Random House.
de Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Desai, R., McFarlane, C., & Graham, S. (2014). The politics of open defecation: Informality, body, and infrastructure in
Mumbai. Antipode, 47(1), 98120.
Doan, P. L. (2010). The tyranny of gendered spacesReflections from beyond the gender dichotomy. Gender, Place
and Culture, 17, 635654.
Doan, P. L. (2015). Why plan for the LGBTQ community? In P. L. Doan (Ed.), Planning and LGBTQ communities: The
need for inclusive queer spaces (pp. 115). New York, NY: Routledge.
Doan, P. L., & Higgins, H. (2011). The demise of queer space? Resurgent gentrification and the assimilation of LGBT
neighborhoods. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 31, 625.
Durose, C., Combs, R., Eason, C., Gains, F., & Richardson, L. (2012). Acceptable difference: Diversity, representation
and pathways to UK politics. Parliamentary Affairs, 66, 246267.
Fenster, T. (2005). Gender and the city: The different formations of belonging. Journal of Gender Studies, 14, 217231.
Flanagan, M. (2014). Private needs, public space: public toilets provision in the Anglo-Atlantic patriarchal city:
London, Dublin, Toronto and Chicago. Urban History, 41, 265290.
Fraser, N. (2014). Fortunes of feminism: From womens liberation to identity politics to anti-capitalism. London,
England: Verso.
Frisch, M. (2015). Finding transformative planning practice in the spaces of intersectionality. In P. L. Doan (Ed.),
Planning and LGBTQ communities: The need for inclusive queer spaces (pp. 129146). New York, NY: Routledge.

Goonewardena, K. (2008). Marxism and everyday life: On Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord and some others. In K.
Goonewardena, S. Kipfer, R. Milgrom, & C. Schmid (Eds.), Space, difference, everyday life: Reading Henri Lefebvre
(pp. 117133). London, England: Routledge.
Greed, C. (2002). Social town planning. London, England: Routledge.
Greed, C. (2008). Are we there yet? Women and transport revisited. In T. Priay Uteng & T. Cresswell (Eds.), Gendered
mobilities (pp. 245255). Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Grosz, E. A. (1994). Volatile bodies: Toward a corporeal feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Grosz, E. A. (2013). Sexual difference as sexual selection: Irigarayan reflections on Darwin. In P. Rawes (Ed.),
Relational architectural ecologies: Architecture, nature and subjectivity (pp. 175191). London, England: Routledge.
Hayden, D. (1980). What would a non-sexist city be like? Speculations on housing, urban design, and human work.
Signs, 5(Suppl. 3), S170S187.
Hill Collins, P. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Abingdon,
Oxon, England: Routledge.
hooks, b. (2000). Feminist theory: From margin to center. London, England: Pluto Press.
Irazbel, C., & Huerta, C. (2016). Intersectionality and planning at the margins: LGBTQ youth of color in New York.
Gender, Place & Culture, 23, 714732.
Irigaray, L. (1985). This sex which is not one. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Irschik, E., & Kail, E. (2013). Vienna: Progress towards a faired shared city. In I. Snchez de Madariaga & M. Roberts
(Eds.), Fair shared cities. The impact of gender planning in Europe (pp. 193225). Farnham, Surrey, England:
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017

Johnson, A. M., & Miles, R. (2014). Toward more inclusive public spaces: Learning from the everyday experiences of
Muslim Arab women in New York City. Environment and Planning A, 46, 18921907.
Keith, M. (2003). Walter Benjamin, urban studies, and the narratives of city life. In G. Bridge & S. Watson (Eds.), A
companion to the city (pp. 410428). Oxford, England: Blackwell.
Knight, G. (2015). The 40% decline in the last 10 years. Retrieved from
Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
Loukaitou-Sideris, A., & Ehrenfeucht, R. (2009). Sidewalks: Conflict and negotiation over public space. Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press.
McDowell, L. (1983). Towards an understanding of the gender division of urban space. Environment and Planning D:
Society and Space, 1, 5972.
McLeod, M. (1996). Everyday and other spaces. In D. Coleman, E. Danze, & C. Henderson (Eds.), Architecture and
Feminism (pp. 137). New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.
Merrifield, A. (2006). Henri Lefebvre: A critical introduction. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Mitchell, D. (2003). The right to the city: Social justice and the fight for public space. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Moore Milroy, B. (2000). Cracks, light, energy. In K. B. Mirianne & A. H. Young (Ed.), Gendering the city: Women,
boundaries, and visions of urban life (pp. 209217). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little.
Mueller, E., Latini, J., Lux, M., Stablein, U., Brubaker, L., Kreder, K., & Fitzgerald, M. P. (2005). Gender differences in
24-hour urinary diaries of asymptomatic North American adults. Journal of Urology, 173, 490492.
Nicholls, W., & Vermeulen, F. (2012). Rights through the city: The urban basis of immigrant rights struggles in
Amsterdam and Paris. In M. P. Smith & M. McQuarrie (Eds.), Remaking urban citizenship: Organizations,
institutions, and the right to the city (Vol. 10, pp. 7995). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Project Guardian. (n.d.). Project Guardian. Retrieved from
Purcell, M. (2002). Excavating Lefebvre: The right to the city and its urban politics of the inhabitant. GeoJournal, 58(2),
Purcell, M. (2014). Possible worlds: Henri Lefebvre and the right to the city. Journal of Urban Affairs, 36, 141154.
Rendell, J. (2002). Bazaar beauties or pleasure is our pursuit: A spatial story of exchange. In I. Borden, J. Kerr, & J.
Rendell (Eds.), The unknown city: Contesting architecture and social space (pp. 104122). Cambridge, MA: MIT
Snchez de Madariaga, I., & Roberts, M. (Eds.). (2013). Fair shared cities. The impact of gender planning in Europe.
Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate.
Sayer, L. C. (2005). Gender, time and inequality: Trends in womens and mens paid work, unpaid work and free time.
Social Forces, 84, 285303.
Shields, R. (1999). Lefebvre, love, and struggle: Spatial dialectics. London, England: Routledge.
Soja, E. W. (1996). Thirdspace: Expanding the geographical imagination. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
Solymosi, T. (2015, May). UCL Sensing Environment Seminar, London, England.
Solymosi, T., Bowers, K., & Fujiyama, T. (2015). Mapping fear of crime as a context-dependent everyday experience
that varies in space and time. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 20, 193211.
Staeheli, L. A., Ehrkamp, P., Leitner, H., & Nagel, C. R. (2012). Dreaming the ordinary: Daily life and the complex
geographies of citizenship. Progress in Human Geography, 36, 628644.

Sweet, E. L. (2016). Gender, violence, and the city of emotion. In Y. Beebeejaun (Ed.), The participatory city (pp. 120
127). Berlin, Germany: Jovis.
Sweet, E. L., & Ortiz Escalante, S. (2010). Planning responds to gender violence: Evidence from Spain, Mexico and the
United States. Urban Studies, 47, 21292147.
Sweet, E. L., & Ortiz Escalante, S. (2014). Bringing bodies into planning: Visceral methods, fear and gender violence.
Urban Studies, 52, 18261845.
Transport for London. (2014). Safety and security survey annual report. London, England: Author.
Trondal, J., Murdoch, Z., & Geys, B. (2015). Representative bureaucracy and the role of expertise in politics. Politics
and Governance, 3, 2636.
Vaiou, D. (1992). Gender divisions in urban space: Beyond the rigidity of dualist classifications. Antipode, 24, 247262.
Vaiou, D. (2014). Is the crisis in Athens (also) gendered?: Facets of access and (in)visibility in everyday public spaces.
City, 18, 533537.
Vaiou, D., & Lykogianni, R. (2006). Women, neighbourhoods and everyday life. Urban Studies, 43, 731743.
Whitzman, C., Andrew, C., & Viswanath, K. (2014). Partnerships for womens safety in the city: Four legs for a good
table. Environment and Urbanization, 26, 443456.
Wilson, E. (1991). The sphinx in the city. London, England: Virago Press.
Womens Design Service. (2004). Baptist Mills/Millponds Community Safety Audit Group interim report. London,
England: Author.
Downloaded by [] at 05:47 15 August 2017